The other day I attempted to squeeze the bowl for my ice cream maker into the freezer, which resulted in me having to re-arrange the entire freezer and remove several items in order to fit it in (there may be an overabundance of cake in there...); that in turn led to me making these black forest meringue nests as I took out a tub of egg whites (which I always seem to have several of in there) and a packet of frozen cherries to make room for the bowl. The logical conclusion was meringues with cherry compote, at which point it seemed wrong not to add chocolate and some quark whipped cream to make sort of black forest mini pavlovas.
The meringues are made using the basic french meringue recipe, with some cocoa powder folded in so that they are rippled with chocolate; they can be baked several days before you want to serve them (or are also delicious just on their own, without the toppings). The cherry compote can also be prepared a couple of days in advance; alternatively you can use a jar of morello cherries in syrup, in which case you simply need to drain them then reduce the liquid until it is syrupy. The quark whipped cream is very simple, but shouldn't be made until shortly before you assemble the meringue nests. The quark lightens the cream and lends it a fresh, slightly tangy flavour that offsets the sweetness of the meringue perfectly; you can also use mascarpone or cream cheese in place of the quark, and it would probably also work well with thick, full fat Greek yoghurt.
If you happen to have a bottle of Kirsch or cherry brandy lying around then you can add a splash of it to either the cherry compote or quark cream for a more authentic black forest flavour; I didn't have any however and they are still perfectly delicious without it. A scattering of chocolate shavings (made by running a Y shaped vegetable peeler down the side of a bar of chocolate) and a fresh cherry to garnish are all that are needed to finish the nests off and create an impressive, thoroughly delicious dessert that is suitable for any time of year.
Black Forest Meringue Nests (Chocolate Cherry Meringues)
- 5 large egg whites
- ¼ tsp cream of tartar
- 275 g (1 + ⅓ cup + 1tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 250 g (9oz) frozen cherries
- 2 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
- 7 tbsp water
- 1 ½ tsp cornflour
- OR use one jar of morello cherries in syrup
- 250 ml (1 cup) double (heavy) cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar , sifted
- 250 g (9oz) quark (or mascarpone)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 bar dark chocolate - to make shavings
- fresh cherries to serve
- Preheat the oven to 110C/225F/gas mark ¼ and line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large, spotlessly clean bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time and continue to whisk until the meringue is very stiff and glossy and the sugar has completely dissolved (rub a little of the meringue between your fingertips, it shouldn't feel grainy at all).
- Sift the cocoa powder over the meringue and gently fold it through so that the mixture looks marbled.
- Use a little bit of the meringue to stick the baking parchment to the sheet so that it is easier to shape the meringues. Dollop 8-10 blobs of the meringue onto the baking sheets, well spaced apart, and use two spoons to shape them into rounds, create a hollow in the centre of each one.
- Bake for about two hours, rotating the trays halfway through, until the meringues are firm and lift away from the parchment cleanly. Switch off the oven and leave the meringues in there to cool.
- To make the cherry compote, place the cherries and sugar in a saucepan, mix the cornflour with a little of the water to make a slurry then set aside, add the rest of the water to the pan and bring up to a simmer, stir in the cornflour mixture and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes until thickened, remove from the heat and leave to cool, adjust sugar to taste.
- OR, if you are using a jar of morello cherries, tip the cherries into a colander placed over a bowl to catch the juices; when the cherries have drained, pour the liquid into a saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes until reduced and syrupy.
- To make the quark cream, whisk the cream with the icing sugar until if just forms stiff peaks then fold in the quark and vanilla extract. If the mixture is too soft, place in the fridge for about an hour until it has firmed up.
- Run a y shaped vegetable peeler down the side of the chocolate bar to make shavings.
- To serve, fill the hollow in each meringue with some of the quark cream (either dollop it in or put it in a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe dollops in), top with some of the cherries and a drizzle of syrup and sprinkle with chocolate shavings then top with a fresh cherry. Serve immediately.
I am sharing these with Saucy Saturdays hosted by The Flavour Bender, Take Two Tapas, La Petit Chef and Mid-Life Croissant, Fiesta Friday hosted by The Not So Creative Cook and Faith, Hope, Love & Luck, Foodie FriDIY, Foodie Friends Friday and Friday Features